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An Inspiring Week: Two Holy Trinity Seminary Professors in Moscow - 01/26/17

In January 2017, two Holy Trinity Seminary Professors, Deacon Andrei Psarev and Dr. Elena Nelson, were in Moscow, giving presentations and engaging in professional development. 

Byzantine Heritage Tour III - 01/03/17

At Holy Trinity Seminary, we realize the necessity of travel beyond a classroom. Therefore, in the summer of 2015,students of Byzantine History went to Istanbul in the summer of 2015, and this spring, they joined students of Liturgical Theology to explore Byzantine liturgical art in the Metropolitan Museum of Art of New York City.


To continue this "Byzantine Heritage Tour" with a new group of students,seven seminarians and three faculty drove down to New York City on the weekend of December 16-17, 2016 to visit the Synod of Bishops of the Russian Church Outside of Russia and the Metropolitan Museum of Art.


At the Synod, these pilgrims met with Bishop Nicholas of Manhattan, who welcomed them into his office, gave them a personal tour of the premises, and finally, invited them into his cell for a warm conversation. During the tour, Vladyka emphasized the need to understand and appreciate ROCOR history to experience continuity with the past. Not only does this help to frame the present and direct the church into the future, but it also keeps us in living communion with the more recent saints in heaven. From this perspective, Vladyka reiterated the need to keep Mr.Serge Semenenko in our memories and prayers, as he donated New York City building that houses the Synod.


During the tour, the students were taken to St. Sergius of Radonezh English-Language Mission and to the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Sign, both of which are housed in the Synod. The Cathedral is the only Orthodox church in the greater New York City metropolitan area that offers a complete daily cycle of services, including the liturgy. Although the original Kursk-Root Icon was not present, a copy was available for veneration, along with relics from various saints, a rare icon of the spiritual history of Russia, and the miraculous icon of Our Lady of All Who Sorrow from Harbin (in St. Sergius Chapel). Also on display was the mantle worn by Tsar Nicholas on the day of his coronation. In this context, Vladyka wanted the students to remember that the Synod is a unique place, not only because it is sanctified by myriads of prayers but because of its spiritual history: "this is the place where St. John of San Francisco stood; this is the place where St. Xenia and the New Martyrs were glorified."


Finally, Vladyka gave the students very important advice for future priests. They must always be open to their parishioners, always have their doors open to welcome them, talk to them, and help them in any way possible. After all, the priest exists for the salvation of his people, and therefore, must be warm, loving, and inviting.


After an edifying time at the synod and a good nights' rest at a hotel in Newark International Airport, the students and faculty were up at 7:30am, ready to eat breakfast and start their day-long excursion in the Metropolitan Museum of Art. They were blessed with a special tour of the Byzantine collection by Fr. Deacon Evan Freeman, an instructor of liturgical art at St Vladimir's Seminary and doctoral student in Byzantine Art at Yale. He walked students through the exhibit, engaging them in the material history of the Orthodox Church in the middle and late Byzantine periods. This included liturgical items (chalices and censors), devotional items (made of ivory and encaustic), and even a khachkar, a monumental Armenian cross-stone. Through the guidance of Fr. Evan, the students received an art-historical perspective that supplemented the dogmatic, liturgical, and historical perspectives learned in classes and in church. One of the most amazing features of this tour was the visual reinforcement of the Orthodox Church's true continuity with tradition for over 1,500 years!


After the tour, the group went to the international exhibit of "Jerusalem 1000-1400: Every People under Heaven," and then, dispersed for half an hour of self-directed exploration. Thereafter, the group went to the Metropolitan's "Cloisters" branch, amedieval Catholic compound reconstructed in Manhattan from the stones of various French abbeys. With Gregorian chant and a medieval morality play in the background, this experience provided an important space for students to consider "comparative religion." Finally, the group passed through St. Vladimir Seminary on the way back home to Jordanville.


Thank God for a fun, informative, and edifying trip! Also, special thanks to two anonymous donors, the parishes of St. Nectarios in TN and St. Elizabeth in NJ, and Holy Trinity Seminary that made this trip possible.

Public Lecture: “Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn: Overview of Life, Works and Influence.” - 12/26/16

On Thursday, October 27th, 2016, Dr Alexis Klimoff, Emeritus Professor of Russian Studies, Vassar College, and one of the foremost experts on Alexander Solzhenitsyn, delivered an illustrated lecture titled "Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn: Overview of Life, Works and Influence." in the seminary hall.
Dr. Klimoff portrayed the life of Solzhenitsyn and his works in that context.  Of particular mention was how his work "A Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich," which gave a vivid illustration of life in Stalinist prison labor camps, was actually published in the Soviet Union with the express approval of Communist Party Secretary Nikita Krushchev.  The lecture was recorded and is now available for viewing. 

Another Successful Summer Youth Program! - 11/09/16

It was so successful that we filled our dormitory with 17 open-minded young men who made a commitment to learn the truths of God and to explore the life of the Church in the setting of Holy Trinity Monastery! There was so much interest that some applicants, unfortunately, had to be turned away. We are hopeful to be able to expand this unique program that incorporates liturgical life, religious education, service to the monastery, and fellowship. We are very excited about this development!

This program has been a regular summer activity at Holy Trinity since its inception and has consistently proven to be life changing for the participants, who receive a deep catechetical education in a monastic setting with individualized pastoral guidance. They, then, put into practice what they learn in the "classroom" by participating in the liturgical life of the Church and helping the monastics with such tasks as working on the farm, making incense, and digging graves (a very contemplative activity). Not only does this leave all the young men with a profound relationship to their faith, but many are even inspired to serve in the Church for the rest of their lives, becoming seminarians, well-established clergymen, and even hierarches!

After all this serious activity, the boys even have time to enjoy themselves with barbecues, sports, and hiking in the woods through our 1,000-acre property!

Celebrating the 25th Anniversary of our Summer School of Liturgical Music! - 11/09/16

This year marked the 25th Anniversary of our Summer School of Liturgical Music, Holy Trinity Seminary's fully-accredited certificate program in liturgical music. Interested participants came from throughout the country to strengthen their musical skills and scholarship in pursuit of the art of directing choirs in the Russian Orthodox Church. They took courses in musicianship, singing, liturgics and Russian music history, learning such chants as Znamenniy and contemporary polyphony. This year's 25th Anniversary was celebrated with a marvelous gala in Chicago's Holy Virgin Protection Cathedral, where the director of the music program, Archpriest Andre Papkov, serves and functions as dean of Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, and Nebraska.

Seth Davidenko, currently a third-year seminarian, started attending the Summer School while still in High School as a member of his parish choir. Describing his motivation for enrolling as a form of responsibility to the Church, he explains, "If I'm going to walk around in a cassock, I have to learn my role." Learning the interconnections between the choir, priests, and deacon, he was impressed by the fact that musicality intricately ties all aspects of the liturgy together. Therefore, a deep study of the Typikon is essential, and he is grateful that he had the opportunity to do so in a formal setting under qualified and knowledgeable instructors.

Learn more about our Summer School of Liturgical Music!

Meet A Few of Our New Students - 11/09/16


Seminarian Edmund Underwood 

           Edmund Louis Underwood                                               

Seminarian James Racz

                       James Racz

Seminarian Michael Bell

                       Michael Bell

Monastery Labor Day Pilgrimage and PaTRAM Youth Singer’s Conference - 11/09/16

Adding to the musicality of this past summer, Holy Trinity Monastery hosted the First Annual Patriarch Tikhon Russian American Music Institute (PaTRAM) Young Singers' Conference to coincide with its Labor Day Pilgrimage of St. Job of Pochaev. This three-day conference focused on two Hierarchical Divine Liturgies under the capable direction of Dr. Peter Jermikov and in conjunction with the combined Holy Trinity Monastery/Seminary choir. For the first time in many years, the antiphons of the Divine Liturgy were sung with two choirs with the mixed youth choir on the left and the Monastery male choir on the right. Participants also had time to enjoy a barbeque and late summer afternoon at the scenic Glimmerglass State Park on Lake Otsego.

“Our Roots are in the Russian Church” - An Interview with Fr. Luke (Murianka) on Monastic Conference in Moscow - 10/18/16

From September 21 to 25, 2016 the solemn celebrations took place in Moscow, dedicated to the 1000-year anniversary of Russian monastic presence on Mount Athos. Our Rector and Associate Professor of Patrology, the Very Rev. Archimandrite Luke (Murianka), was invited to take part in the celebrations, which included an academic conference, as well as a meeting of all abbots and abbesses of the Russian Church. On September 29, Deacon Andrei Psarev, a member of our faculty, interviewed Fr. Luke in the abbot’s office in Jordanville, asking him to share with our readers his impressions from this solemn event.

Fr. Luke, you have just come back from a very rapid visit to Russia; you spent less than a week there. Your commitment to Jordanville is very impressive. What was the occasion for your visit?

I was invited to the celebration of the 1000th anniversary of Russia's monastic presence on Mt. Athos. There was a gathering of more than 600 abbots and abbesses in Moscow in order to take part in church services, lectures, talks and the opening of an exhibit in the museum of Christ the Savior commemorating the event.

It was a five-day event. I understand there were many experts on the theme from the various corners of the world. What did you learn from this intensive time in Moscow?

There were talks given by His Holiness Patriarch Kirill, talks that were edifying and directed to us- the members of the monastic community, especially the abbots and abbesses- encouraging us, giving us some guidelines. They presented a picture of the far past (before the revolution), what happened during the revolution, and exactly what is going on in contemporary monastic life. What I found very moving and refreshing was that His Holiness very realistically described the situation in Russia and the strengths and the weakness that monastic life in Russia now faces.

The other talks were by bishops and priests from various areas, mostly from Russia. I would like to mention the talk on the history of the Athonite monastic traditions by Priestmonk Kyrion of St. Panteleimon's monastery, and also, the lecture of Dr. Jean-Claude Larchet who spoke concerning spiritual life and monasticism. Some of the more edifying for me were about the importance of confession, the revelation of thoughts and the significance of obedience. Other talks were of a more historical, academic nature.

For me, the ones that were more practical were the most important, and I came away with some ideas that I could bring home. That was the most important reason for going: so I could help to improve, to form, the monastic community here in Jordanville.

Did you go to Holy Trinity St Sergius Lavra?

No. We had a choice on that day; the entire group was split. One remained in Moscow with the Patriarch to hear his address towards us abbots and abbesses, and the other group of a more academic inclination went [to Holy Trinity Lavra]. Although I would have liked to have gone and visited the Lavra, the reason I traveled to Moscow was my being the abbot of a monastery, and so, I needed to be present when the Patriarch expressed his ideas and gave us his advice.

Did you have a chance to meet your peers, abbots from Russia or other places, to exchange opinions?

Yes, I did have time in between the lectures. There were so many talks, and it was so saturated that we even missed some of the breaks that were actually scheduled because we just kept going.

But in between talks and at other times, I did have the opportunity to have longer discussions with the abbots in Russia, three in particular, and I addressed some of my thoughts to Abbess Sophia from St. Petersburg. I was very impressed with what she had to say about the difficulties that abbots and abbesses have now in Russia because of the cultural and psychological environment among the young people. Monastic formation necessitates an extremely individual approach to each person.

She made an interesting comment about what she has to deal with today: worse than any kind of drug addiction is the Internet. Of course, that fact came out many times during the conference. The Patriarch and others brought up the problem that some monastics are obsessed with cell phones and the Internet. This is part of the real world; this is part of being open to the world. We have to expect the monastics to come with their difficulties, their weaknesses, and we have to look at these things and deal with them with open eyes. We can't idealize. We just need to accept them, and again as she stated, monastic formation requires a very individual approach. Not only one rule for everybody. That is impossible.

May I conclude, generally, that your impressions are quite positive?

I was very edified. I think that the Patriarch and others were able to very clearly define that two of the major problems in Russia are that there has not been a continuity with the past and that many of the heads of the monasteries, the abbots and abbesses, are young. As he said, "you have to teach others, but you yourself are learning."

Because of communism, spiritual leaders and monasteries were destroyed. The people from whom some kind of continuity could have been passed on were lost in many cases, and probably, in the majority of cases.

So, many monastic communities are being established with people who have very little experience and training from an older generation. They are starting completely fresh. It's like starting from zero, and as Vladyka [Metropolitan] Laurus told me once, but I did not understand at the time, Russia has to start again from the days of St. Vladimir. Now more and more, I see that this is actually the situation.

I am very grateful for having heard about continuity because it gives me a better perspective on our monastery. We do have a continuous tradition. I think of the generation that's gone now. I was able to learn from them, to have fellowship with them, and to be under obedience to them. I know that where they gained their monastic experiences is genuine and connected to the past.

From the physical connection, from reading what many of the older fathers have left behind, and mostly, from being advised by them about many things, I recall exactly what they said. They, indeed, did form me. Since I saw how they were formed, I know that there is a continuous tradition here in Jordanville.

And perhaps that's what we can bring to the table?

Well, we could if we are humble enough not to think we have all the answers. If I thought that I could go teach 600 abbots and abbesses in Russia, that would be absurd, and I wouldn't even think of it for a moment.

I did share some of my thoughts. I repeated some of the words of Archimandrite Kyprian (Pyzhov), of Vladyka Laurus and other Jordanville Fathers and shared the experience I gained through the four decades that I have been in the monastery.

They were all younger than I am; in fact, everyone seemed to be more or less younger than I am, except probably his Holiness.

And you were probably one of the senior clergymen by your ordination?

Well, to some degree probably. I didn't ask. We know we are not supposed to take the first place, so I hid until they actually, literally, dragged me out to the front. They kept pushing me forward and forward, until finally I was nearly next to the last bishop. Somebody actually did push me and said, "Go! Go up there!"

So, basically, what I hear from your response is that, with some humility, we could contribute something?

Yes, I think we probably could but on an individual basis if people ask us questions. Through my personal contact, I was very freely expressing my thoughts, what I had lived through, and the lessons that I learned from the older fathers.

In every case, I saw that these were received with surprise, with some amazement. People were very edified, as if this was the first time they'd heard these things. They actually mentioned, "Well, we don't know how to deal with these things. This is amazing! We have never heard this before, and we could use this experience."

I think that, unfortunately, of course, many times the young abbots and abbesses just pick up books, rules, monastic guides, and they just start with these texts. They don't have too much of a living tradition to interpret them, to know how to use them. I just spoke from the heart, and it seemed to make an impression. I didn't expect that. I wasn't there to make impressions.

Fr. Luke, why is Russia important to the monastic and academic community of Jordanville? Why is it important to stay in tune with Russia?

Well, because we are part of the Russian Church. It's where our roots are- in the Russia Church.

There's a lot of true renewal of spiritual life, of monastic life. Very sincere people are living an Orthodox lifestyle, living a monastic lifestyle, trying to. I think it's good to have, as much as we can, contact with these people, and we can learn from them. We can be edified, inspired, by them, by what they are doing. By talking to them and listening, I came away with very useful information, inspiring services, pious practices, and attitudes. I think people should go and experience this also.

The scholarship in Russia, the academic world, is vast. It's growing all the time. Although I don't know the entire limit or scope of what is going on, I sometimes get a feeling that theological, academic life has remained in the 19th century or close to the 20th century. That's why sometimes some of their theological attitudes, etc., come to us as a surprise. It's almost as if you're speaking to people from 1840 or 1880 and not from the experience that we had, which came from those spiritual leaders who nurtured the beginning and continual life of the Russian Church Abroad. That's another very important subject.

Also, I deduce from what you said that the level of discussion, the degree of discussion, was quite honest, quite open?

That was very refreshing. I remember 5 years ago, 10 years ago, when I was in Russia for the talks in the commission between the two churches for reconciliation, there was less of a desire to be open about what happened in the past 70-80 years. Even when we mentioned things, there seemed to be some reticence in discussing these things.

But this time, I heard both from His Holiness Patriarch Kirill and from others, many times, about the destruction by the Bolsheviks, the cruelty, the massive loss of life, etc. The conversation was very open and a very frequent, whereas in the past they were somehow not always anxious to bring these things up. This time, more and more, there was absolutely no hesitation, and even the last thing the Patriarch said was, "Well, soon it will be 2017, and this will be a good time for us to recall and reexamine, revisit, exactly what's happened to us and why it all happened."

Of course, it is very important for Russia that there is a true Orthodox spiritual understanding about the Revolution- not a political but a spiritual understanding of what all of that means and how it happened. As the people say, "It's almost as if God said, 'you want to create paradise on earth? Then, you try to do that and see what happens. See how you can live without Me and without the God-preserved Russian czar.'" St. John of Kronstadt mentioned that you must not touch the anointed one or there will be a blood bath. Of course, this all took place exactly how the prophets of Russia said it would take place. So, I think all this is being revisited. From what I see, it is from a very good perspective.

The Patriarch mentioned many weaknesses in monasticism; he said some of these were present in pre-Revolutionary Russia. He said the monastery should be a place of prayer and not a collective farm where people just work. He said we have to be very careful that we don't think that there is a good monastic life if everybody is just working day and night. He said that's not what we are here for. You might say he reprimanded us, chided us, directed us, revealed some weaknesses from the past and the present with hopes that these would not continue into the future but that there would be improvement.

In the end, he said that things have to be done very carefully and with love. We must not come out with a hammer or a hatchet and try to use military discipline on people. It's totally not the way to go about correcting things, and we have to remember the individual when we begin to apply the rules. I believe that is absolutely correct, and I have always believed this.

Now, if you allow for a nice conclusion to this interview, so we remember the individual and show love.

When you begin to apply rules etc., you have to do it with love and remember the individual, not hammer people and insist that there is one rule for everyone. Keep this in mind. There are general things that are good and should be striven for. We all have to consider the times we live in and the people we are dealing with when we begin to correct and direct.

Thank you very much for this informative interview, Fr. Luke. I am very happy to hear about your trip and your positive impressions.

I would like to thank the organizers of the conference for inviting me. I was very impressed by their work. Many young people were involved. What impressed me most of all was that all of them were very respectful, attentive, and spiritually cultured, from start to finish- to the last person that opened the trunk in the taxi to send me to the airport. He bowed to me, took my blessing, and said, "God bless your trip. May an angel go with you."

HTOS Faculty Participate in a Byzantine Studies Conference - 10/13/16

On Friday, October 7, Deacon Andrei Psarev, Assistant Professor of Russian Church History and Canon Law at Holy Trinity Orthodox Seminary, presented the results of his doctoral research at the 42nd Annual Byzantine Studies Conference, which took place this year at Cornell University in Ithaca, NY.

Deacon Andrei's paper was entitled "A Study of the Limits of Communion in the Byzantine Church  (861- c. 1350): Chasing Canon 15 of the First and Second Council in Constantinople (861)." Based on three case studies of the events from the tenth to fourteenth centuries and on Byzantine commentators, Deacon Andrei concluded that the use of this canon is consistent with the medieval Byzantine legal tradition.

Dr. Vitaly Permiakov, Assistant Professor of Dogmatic and Liturgical Theology at HTOS, also attended the conference.

Organized by the Byzantine Studies Association of North America (BSANA), the Byzantine Studies Conference was founded in 1975, and provides an important opportunity for graduate students to take part in a formal world-class academic event, and to receive advice from senior scholars in the field. For example, this year, in addition to paper sessions, the conference organized two panel discussion on job placement and academic publishing intended to assist young scholars in getting started in the world of academic Byzantine studies.

Holy Trinity Orthodox Seminary Celebrates Its 68th Commencement - 05/29/16

On Sunday, May 29, 2016 Holy Trinity Orthodox Seminary concluded the 2015-2016 academic year with the Commencement Ceremonies celebrating the achievements of the Class of 2016. His Eminence, Metropolitan Hilarion of Eastern America and New York, First Hierarch of the Russian Church Abroad, presided at the Hierarchal Vigil Saturday evening and at the Divine Liturgy on the Sunday of Samaritan Woman in concelebration with the clergy of Holy Trinity Monastery. At the Sixth Hour, His Eminence tonsured the third-year seminarian Sergey Kosov to the rank of reader and ordained him to the subdiaconate. At the Small Entrance of the Liturgy, the Rev. Priest Ephraim Willmarth, Assistant Dean of the Seminary, was awarded the right to wear the nabedrennik, and three deacons – the Rev. Dn Peter Markevich (’13), the Rev. Dn Andrei Psarev (’95), and the Rev. Dn Andrew Doubleday – were awarded double oraria. After the anaphora, Metropolitan Hilarion ordained Subdeacon Sergey Kosov to the holy diaconate. The homily after the communion verse was delivered in English and Russian by Reader Vitaly Permiakov, HTOS Instructor in Dogmatic and Liturgical Theology.

At 2 o’clock in the afternoon, despite the inclement weather, the faculty, staff, and students of the Seminary proceeded to the Holy Trinity Cathedral for the Thanksgiving Moleben, presided by Metropolitan Hilarion. After the Moleben and the group photo, all proceeded to the Seminary Hall, where the Very Rev. Archimandrite Luke, the Rector of the Seminary, opened the Commencement Exercises and offered his welcoming remarks, reflecting upon the need for the students of theology to continue asking questions, seeking the truth, following the example of the Samaritan Woman in the Gospel.

The focus of the Commencement ceremonies was the keynote address delivered by Dr Christopher Veniamin, Professor of Patristics at St Tikhon’s Orthodox Theological Seminary (South Canaan, PA) and a spiritual child of late Elder Sophrony (Sakharov) of St John the Baptist Monastery in Essex. In his engaging talk, Dr Veniamin stressed the need for future pastors to persist in their discipline of prayer, calling upon the name of God, building a foundation for becoming true theologians.

Following the address, the diplomas were awarded to the members of the HTOS Class of 2016. Four seminarians – Reader Stanislav Matveev (magna cum laude), Daniil Semenov, Reader Stefan Stoyanov, and the Rev. Priest Seraphim Wing (in absentia) – received the degree of Bachelor of Theology. Two students – Reader Johannes Sanjaya and Nicholas Williams – were awarded Certificates in Pastoral Studies, and the Rev. Dn Dmitry Matveev received the Certificate in Theological Studies. In the address from the graduating class, Reader Stanislav Matveev, chosen by the Pedagogical Council as Valedictorian, reflected upon the experiences and challenges of living and studying at the Seminary as the ground for testing one’s own preparedness for the service to the Church.

Special recognition at the Commencement ceremonies was given to two faculty members who are leaving Holy Trinity Seminary at the end of this academic year: Mr Arseny G. Mikhalev (’09) who taught courses in Old and New Testament since 2012, and Mr Cyprian (Scott) Fennema, a graduate of Yale University, who taught Philosophy during the last academic year. The Rev. Ephraim Willmarth read the decision of the Pedagogical Council to recognize and to thank both departing faculty members for their good and faithful service to the Seminary and to wish them success and God’s blessing in their future endeavors. The presiding hierarch, His Eminence Metropolitan Hilarion, concluded the ceremony with his closing remarks.

The 68th Commencement Exercises concluded with the reception in honor of the HTOS Class of 2016, as well as clergy, faculty, staff, students, and guests, on the lawn outside of the Seminary building. The Rector, the Administration, and the Faculty sincerely congratulate the Class of 2016 and wishes the new alumni of the Seminary the blessing of the Lord and every success in their future service to the holy Orthodox Church!

A Practical Canon Law Seminar with Metropolitan Jonah - 04/13/16

In the Orthodox Church bishops are not only required to defend canons, but they are the ones who decide how and when to apply them.  Therefore, it is absolutely necessary for Canon Law students to have an opportunity to meet with a proper canon law practitioner - a bishop.

During the two hour-Skype seminar on April 13 with His Eminence Metropolitan Jonah (Paffhausen) students were able to learn about variety of pastoral questions related to canons, and not the least among them, "why do we need to study canons if at the end of the day a bishop will decide how to implement them?"

The Seminary administration, course instructor Deacon Andrei Psarev, and the students of Canon Law thank His Eminence for making himself available to share his expertise with the future priests and lay leaders of the Russian Church Abroad.

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Jordanville, N. Y. 13361
Telephone: (315) 858-0945